Saturday 4 July, 2020

Cayman's Reopening of Borders Committee to face some complex issues...

Cayman’s borders were officially closed on March 22 2020, with indications from government that Owen Roberts International Airport and Charles Kirkconnell International Airport will be closed to commercial passenger flights until August 31 2020 at 11.59 pm. A ban on cruise ships remains in effect until the same date.

The guidelines and protocols put forward by the Caribbean Tourism COVID-19 Task Force will no doubt provide some degree of guidance to the Reopening of Borders Committee (RBC), which is comprised of ten relevant agencies (Ministry of District Administration, Tourism, and Transport, Office of the Governor, Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands, Cayman Islands Airports Authority, Cayman Airways Ltd., Department of Tourism, Port Authority of the Cayman Islands, Ministry of Employment and Border Control, Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture, and Housing, Health Services Authority) that will work together to formulate the policies, organize the logistics and operations, and evaluate the results of reopening Cayman’s borders.

The premier has also indicated that The RBC will be guided in part by a document produced by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), through its Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART). The document is entitled ‘The Strategic Approach for Aviation Recovery in the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NAM/CAR) Regions’ and it provides guidance to global governments and industry operators for the safe, secure and sustainable restart of the aviation sector.

Here are some of the critical questions and considerations around opening borders

Should opening be staggered/ selective?

Some countries are simply managing the pandemic better than others, causing risk-profiles of travellers to be varied. Countries such as Aruba have chosen to allow entry of some nationalities earlier than others. In Aruba, visitors from Curacao and Bonaire were permitted entry earlier this month and visitors from Canada and Europe will be allowed entry from July 1, while US visitors will be allowed to enter from July 10.

Should visitors be asked to take a COVID test before or upon entering?

There has been a lot of debate around this given that it takes a few days for the virus to show up in the body. Saint Lucia has allowed entry of passengers from the United States since June 4. Travellers must present "certified proof" of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 48 hours of boarding their flight. In Jamaica, arriving visitors must submit a pre-travel health authorization registration with their customs and immigration form.

Should visitors be required to quarantine?

Asking travellers to quarantine is incredibly cost-prohibitive. Barbados and St Vincent are requiring visitors to quarantine for 14-days upon arrival.

Should a limited number of rooms be opened for visitors?

This would allow countries to cap how many tourists are visiting at a given time, while also ensuring that accommodations are COVID-safe. Colin James, CEO of Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, told Loop in the initial phase four hotels will be opened to accommodate visitors: Sandals Resort, Tamarind Hill, Hammock Cove Resort, Galley Bay.

Rumours?

Numerous reports have suggested that the UK is set to lift its ban on nonessential travel and establish air bridges or travel corridors with a number of different countries, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain. The Sun has indicated that these Air Bridges would allow tourists between two countries to visit without needing to quarantine and that British Overseas Territories like Cayman would form travel corridors in July. Loop is assuming at this time, given the premier’s assurance that borders will be closed until late August, that this news is inaccurate.

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